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Mental Game Myths and Truths for Coaches and Athletes Robin S. Vealey, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology and Health Miami University Oxford OH 45056

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Presentation on theme: "Mental Game Myths and Truths for Coaches and Athletes Robin S. Vealey, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology and Health Miami University Oxford OH 45056"— Presentation transcript:

1 Mental Game Myths and Truths for Coaches and Athletes Robin S. Vealey, Ph.D. Department of Kinesiology and Health Miami University Oxford OH

2 Example Myths about the Nature of Sport Psychology 1.For mentally weak or athletes with problems 2.Involves psychotherapy 3.Is a last resort when nothing else works 4.Is a quick fix prior to championships or when athletes are in trouble 5.It makes athletes think too much 6.It changes athletes’ personalities (Cohn, 2007; Cole, mentalgamecoach.com)

3 Hardy, L. (1997). Three myths about applied consultancy work; JASP, 9, Cognitive anxiety always hurts athletes’ performance. 2.Outcome goals and ego- orientations are detrimental to sport performance. 3.Internal visual imagery is better than external visual imagery in improving sport performance.

4 Mental Game Myths 1.Training should emphasize pursuing the “zone” and peak performance. 2.You’ve got to have confidence to perform well. 3.Lock in your focus using technique triggers. 4.Bring up the intensity level for championship situations.

5 Myth #1: Train for the “zone” and peak performance TIP : Train your… RESPONSE abilities

6 No evidence that successful athletes experience the “zone” more than less successful athletes – they just COPE better! Task-relevant thoughts Less likely to be distracted Manage anxiety more productively Positive, not negative perfectionists (high standards, flexibility to learn from mistakes) Hope and optimism Confident focus on enabling feelings and beliefs View difficult situations as exciting and challenging Gould et al., 2002; McPherson, 2000; Williams & Krane, 2010

7 Most Important Mental Game Objective To RESPOND productively What happens to you is not nearly as important as how your respond to what happens to you.

8 Importance of RESPONDING “Maybe five time a year, you’re going to go out and be magic. And five times a year, you’re going to go out there and feel like crap. And all the rest of the matches - those are what make you a tennis player.” Brad Gilbert, former professional player and current coach

9 Plan and Rehearse 1.What will it be like? 2.How will I RESPOND? 3.Thinking “on purpose” 4.PRODUCTIVE RESPONSES  Not necessarily positive  Responding - not reacting 5.Homework: Pick one key needed response. Plan your productive response – mentally and behaviorally train it. 1.What will it be like? 2.How will I RESPOND? 3.Thinking “on purpose” 4.PRODUCTIVE RESPONSES  Not necessarily positive  Responding - not reacting 5.Homework: Pick one key needed response. Plan your productive response – mentally and behaviorally train it.

10 What Responses Should You Prepare? Hostile crowdRESPONSE Supportive crowdRESPONSE: Not so great warmupRESPONSE: Great warmupRESPONSE: CriticismRESPONSE: LosingRESPONSE: WinningRESPONSE: Rough playRESPONSE: Official mistakeRESPONSE: Bad luckRESPONSE: Feeling pressure to performRESPONSE: Feeling afraid to failRESPONSE: Playing poorlyRESPONSE: Playing greatRESPONSE: SURPRISE!RESPONSE:

11 Quick Mental Prep Routine 1.Visualize where you will perform. 2.Create the physical and mental energy that you want. 3.Visualize performing your specific tasks - use holistic process cues as “triggers.” 4.Visualize RESPONDING productively to mistakes and obstacles. 5.Affirm readiness. 1.Visualize where you will perform. 2.Create the physical and mental energy that you want. 3.Visualize performing your specific tasks - use holistic process cues as “triggers.” 4.Visualize RESPONDING productively to mistakes and obstacles. 5.Affirm readiness.

12 Training Responses 1.Learn how to play your “B” and “C” game with your “A” face. 2.Identify controllable and uncontrollables – focus on your controllables. 3.Create team/program mindset: so what, deal with it expect the blows patience; jab and score points vs. knockouts play smarter, not harder (adjust, compensate, grind, persist – there are no little things) 4.Contribute what you have that day, struggle well, NEVER give in. UNCONTROLLABLES CONTROLLABLES

13 Object Lesson: BE THE BALL! Characteristics of the ball that represent mental skill and toughness 1.It bounces. When do you need to bounce? Mentally plan/rehearse for it. 2.It rolls. When do you need to roll? Mentally plan/rehearse for it. 3.It is inscribed with “NEXT PLAY.” What is challenging you right now that could do better by practicing “NEXT PLAY?” What is challenging this team right now that could do better by practicing “NEXT PLAY?”

14 “Act Like Champions” Checklist 1.I deliberately put myself in a productive mood and focus at the start of practice. 2.I overtly supported my teammates in practice. 3.I overtly challenged my teammates today to get better. 4.I responded and refocused when I got distracted, received critical feedback, or performed poorly. 5.I participated in every drill with 100% effort. 6.I participated in every drill with 100% focus. 7.I improved a critical skill in practice today. 8.I set an A/A goal for practice. 1.I deliberately put myself in a productive mood and focus at the start of practice. 2.I overtly supported my teammates in practice. 3.I overtly challenged my teammates today to get better. 4.I responded and refocused when I got distracted, received critical feedback, or performed poorly. 5.I participated in every drill with 100% effort. 6.I participated in every drill with 100% focus. 7.I improved a critical skill in practice today. 8.I set an A/A goal for practice.

15 Myth #2: You’ve got to have confidence to perform well How do you talk to your athletes about confidence? Or do/should you? Is confidence CREATABLE?

16 Myth #2: You’ve got to have confidence to perform well “Confidence is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” Pat Summitt “Confidence is a day-to-day issue. It takes constant nurturing. It’s not… turn on the light switch and say ‘I’m confident,’ and it stays on…” Mia Hamm

17 TIP: Focus trumps confidence at the moment of performance 1.Focused connection with performance is the most critical mental factor in sport. 2.Confidence is a foundation skill that enables consistency over the long term. 3.But at moment of performance – can perform without it (with preparation and training).

18 TIP: Focus trumps confidence at the moment of performance 4.“I hope I don’t mess up” is a focus, not a confidence issue 5.Sometimes talking about confidence, or focusing on NOT having it, creates more doubt, anxiety, and fear 6.Training your response-abilities is basis of SELF-confidence (not shot, swing, batting confidence)

19 Orlick’s (2008) Wheel of Excellence FOCU S Commitment Confidence Mental readiness Ongoing learning Distraction control Positive images

20 Foundation Skills Performance Skills Personal Development Skills Team Skills Vealey, 2007, in Handbook of Sport Psych (Tenenbaum & Eklund, Eds.) Identity Achievement Interpersonal Competence

21 Uncontrollable External Factors Physical Skill and Characteristics PERFORMANCE Demographic and Personality Characteristics Organizational Culture Cognition Affect Behavior SOURCES OF SPORT-CONFIDENCE Achievement Self-Regulation Social Climate TYPES OF SPORT-CONFIDENCE Physical Skills and Training Cognitive Efficiency Resilience

22 ACT Like a Champion AACCEPT the feelings, pressure, loss of focus, anxiety, fear. You knew this could happen, you’re prepared, keep in perspective so not to escalate to panic. CCENTER yourself. Exude poise, confidence, strong posture, self control. Use a cleansing and/or centering breath. TTHINK productively. Use a preplanned, well-practiced mental strategy (“go-to” statements). Flush any random, panicked, irrational thoughts. Think on purpose!

23 Mental Toughness Shield Earn the right to wear it. Examine it before competing. Honor it in each competition. Mental Toughness Shield Earn the right to wear it. Examine it before competing. Honor it in each competition.

24 Myth #3: “Lock in” your focus using technique triggers Learners and performer differ in ideal focus of attention Learning involves controlled, conscious processing; performing requires automatic processing Explicit attention to step-by-step skill processes disrupts well- learned “proceduralized” performance processes that normally run outside of conscious awareness (Beilock & Gray, 2007)

25 What should athletes focus on when performing? TIP: Focus on holistic process goals

26 Conscious Processing and the Process Goal Paradox (Mullen, R. & L. Hardy, 2010, J Sport Exercise Psychology) 1.Three experiments (long jump, free throw, putting) to examine performance as result of holistic vs. part process goals 2.Predicted that skilled but anxious athletes who adopted a global movement focus using holistic process goals would outperform those who used part-oriented process goals 3.Conscious processing performance impairment occurs when athletes attempt to ensure task success by adopting a mode of conscious control over performance 4.Conscious processing uses explicit knowledge and contrasts with more efficient and fluid automatic processing based on implicit knowledge

27 Part and Holistic Process Goals for Long Jump Part Process GoalsGoal DescriptionHolistic Process Goals Arch backArching back at takeoffDrive Hips upThrusting hips forwardThrust Slam footPlanting foot on takeoffFlying Drive kneeNon-take off knee upwardHeight Thrust hipsHips forward after takeoffReach Throw armsThrowing arms up and forwardSpring Fast kneeDriving non-takeoff knee upLift

28 Part and Holistic Process Goals for Putting Part Process GoalsGoal DescriptionHolistic Process Goals Wrists firmWrist firm through puttSmooth Firm gripMaintaining firm grip of clubPendulum Front handsKeep hands in front of bladeGlide Firm throughFirm contact through the ballTempo Weight to holeBodyweight on front footPush Blade squarePutter blade square throughoutThrough Short backFocus on short backswingEasy

29 Results of Process Goal Paradox Study (R. Mullen & L. Hardy, 2010, JSEP) 1.Holistic process goal athletes in all three sports performed better in anxiety conditions than part process goal athletes. 2.For skilled athletes who perform under competitive pressure, using a holistic process goal that focuses attention on global aspects of a sport skill is a more effective focus strategy than using a part process goal. 3.Process goals that are part of athletes’ preperformance routines should be holistic in nature to prime automaticity (NOT focus on parts of the movement).

30 Choking  Results from self-focused attention brought on by anxiety  Athletes revert to controlled (as opposed to automatic) processing  Loss of “instinct” or “autopilot” mode  Occurs when athletes think too much

31 Choking as “Paying” Attention Athletes choke because they “pay” attention to how they’re performing… And boy, DO THEY PAY!

32 What TO Think About and How to Train It 1.Focus on what to do NOT HOW to do it 2.Focus on goal, not technique 3.Use holistic MOOD (“strong”) or RHYTHM cue (“smooth”), NOT technique cues (“fast arm”) 4.Use external focus of attention (vs. internal) – develop trigger to get your attention going OUT 5.Become accustomed to the overattention to performance that accompanies high stress situations Videotape while they practice Perform in front others judging you 6.Implicit teaching (“hit it in the woods”)

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34 Myth #4: Bring up the intensity level for championship situations. What is the EMOTIONAL RECIPE for your athletes in competition? Does/should that differ in championship situations?

35 TIP: Find your number, and dial it in for all competitions. Do what you do! 1.Manage and optimize your energy, not only intensity, but type and timing. 2.Work your focus plan to stay in your zones. 3.Normalize and reframe anxiety/fear – learn to love the feelings. 4.Athletes can perform great things at high levels of cognitive anxiety.

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37 Catastrophe Model of Anxiety and Performance (Hardy & Fazey, 1987)

38 Optimal Energy Profile (OEP) Your “special recipe” of feelings Identify: P+ (pleasant feelings that help) P- (unpleasant feelings that hurt) U- (unpleasant feelings that hurt) U+ (unpleasant feelings that help) Identify preferred intensity (0-10) OEPs shown to be important predictors of performance

39 U- U+ P+ P- tired unprepared weaknonsocial nervous anxiouspreparedadaptablefocusedsocialrelaxed accepting Intensity Optimal Energy Profile (Vealey, 2005)

40 Intensity/Energy Activities 1. Walk the board. 2. Hope and Fear exercise 3. Ask athletes the right questions. What’s your job? How do you do that? INSPIRE – yes. AROUSE – no. 4.Find your number - preheat your oven based on recipe. 5.Emotional preparation prepare for all emotions prepare for all surprises plan effective responses

41 Summary: Mental Game Myths and Tips MYTH #1:Training should emphasize pursuing the “zone” and peak performance. TIP:Train your RESPONSE-abilities. MYTH #2:You’ve got to have confidence to perform well. TIP:FOCUS is more important than confidence at the moment of performance. MYTH #3:“Lock in” your focus using technique triggers. TIP:Focus on holistic PROCESS goals, such as mood or rhythm. MYTH #4:Bring up the intensity level for championship situations. TIP:Work to dial in your optimal intensity/energy level. Be inspired/excited by big events, but do what you do.

42 Key Objective of the Mental Game: Beyond Occasional Magic to Everyday Coping/Responding Key Objective of the Mental Game: Beyond Occasional Magic to Everyday Coping/Responding


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